When I went back to TCU after you died, I was tugged by both relief and dread. Relief pulling me out of the thick misery fogging our home and from under the dark cloud held above my head like an umbrella. Dread pulling me into a fake world, a snow globe where happiness was always falling and never melted. Though the thought of returning to such a place was indeed dreadful, I found it surprisingly easy to exist in again because everyone was doing it. Everyone was faking happiness in some degree. It is just the way of the world. People gripped by the fear of all that they are and others seeing them. Back there you were basically alive again. Those two weeks at home with your funeral and everyone crying and asking how they could help and bringing us food were actually just a nightmare. I could pretend for a while. But, then, inevitably, the fake normalcy and glittering happiness would shatter.
Though it seemed easy to fake happiness, going down smooth at first, I choked on it. Vomited it all up. Not confronting the pain and emotions of losing you, I was tormented by this temperamental mix of exhaustion and restlessness. Sometimes it left me curled up on the floor of my roommate’s bedroom, holding myself in the dark and hoping I just might disappear. Other times it threw me into this mad frenzy of blasting music through my headphones and dancing in the driveway of our house (it’s okay, you can laugh, it certainly looked ridiculous). Almost as if my body was searching for a way to rid itself of this aching wound you left. Attempting the old ways of exercise and activity to do so could not soothe it. All the usual ways of expelling this hurt and angry energy were agonizingly inept.
I remember this one particular day, the ache pulsed in restlessness. I tried to drown it out with music and dancing but was cut short by rain. Not wanting to go inside, I sat down at the threshold of the garage and the driveway. Headphones still in. Every once and a while, I peeked over at the back door of the house. I knew my roommates were there, and they knew I was here. On returning to campus, I am sure they were unsure about how to interact with me. Of course, being incredible people, they would have been willing to do anything I asked of them. But I never asked. They told me whatever I needed, whether it was talking or listening, they would help. But I never let them.
Sitting there in that moment, I was silently crying out to them. Hoping they would hear my groans too deep for words. I felt utterly alone but could not reach out. Maybe wouldn’t or just didn’t know how. I thought resignation to invisibility was my only option. A convincing lie.
Almost instantaneous to this thought threatening to take hold, the back door opened. It wasn’t one of my roommates, though we would have gladly built an addition onto the house if it meant this sweet girl could live with us. Emma Patterson, an amazing friend, came walking towards me in her oversized sorority shirt, running shorts and holy high-top Converse. I looked at her, then looked away as she got closer, waiting for her to say something to ease that awkwardness as someone approaches and each person is waiting for the other to voice a greeting or anything at all really. Nothing. Unsure of what was happening, I looked up again. Emma was no longer walking or standing at all. She had sat down next to me, cross-legged, just like I was. Our eyes met and the edges of her lips turned up ever so slightly. We eventually began talking, but to be honest, I don’t remember the conversation. All I needed to see was the look on her face, her eyes locking in on mine and the most heartfelt of smiles on her lips. I knew, then, I was seen, loved and not alone. The ache began to fade, and little did Emma or I realize, she was a touch of healing.
I never really bought into the idea that time heals all wounds. Not gonna lie, I don’t believe it in the slightest. Surely, time is involved in healing, but it is certainly not the healer. Maybe more accurately, we could say time hardens all wounds. This might mimic healing in some senses, impersonate it or mask it, at least. Most certainly not the same. Time marches on, and left on its own, I think it can only harden. However, when time abides in Love, this is when true healing happens. It is not in the nature of Love to be quick, how can it be when it is working with creatures unwise and unwelcoming to its ways? Maybe if we were beings less prideful and less anxious, Love could be quicker. But we are not. We definitely vary in different degrees of pride and anxiety; yet, we all share the same grabby DNA. Grabby in the sense of desiring to always have our hands on our lives and to thinking we know it all.
“The very essence of anxiety is the imagining that we are wiser than God.”[ Charles Spurgeon]
To always thinking we know ourselves best and how to best care for ourselves.
“God takes more care of us than we take care of ourselves. You never heard of a man who numbered the hairs of his head.”[Charles Spurgeon]
Ecclesiastes is my favorite book in the Bible, and though it seems dark and disturbing, I think it is incredibly soothing. Maybe I’m crazy but let me flesh this out. The Bible Project does an excellent video summation of the book, which I want to use to explain why I like it so much and why it is so relevant to time and healing. The first idea expressed is the very sentiment that time marches on regardless of our existence. My life is but a blink in time. The second idea is the inevitability of death. Time not only marches on, but it is, indeed, a death march. The good of us and the bad cannot escape it. All of our toils and efforts and madness and activity all end up in one place, the grave. I am but dust and to dust I shall return. The last idea is the wrench time and chance throw at our desire to control our lives. The reality is the righteous are not always rewarded, and the evil are often favored. Life is much too unpredictable, and our biggest loss is trying to control it. Thus, the Critic, or Teacher (the one expressing all this in the book) uses the Hebrew word “hevel” to describe our lives. Hevel, or smoke, is beautiful, mysterious, confusing and disorientating. Our lives are often the same. Though the conclusion may seem to be all is quite meaningless, it is more so to concern ourselves with the one thing we can control, “our attitude in the present moment.”
The rainy day in college not long after your death, dad, was an Ecclesiates day. Confusing and disorientating. Everything seemed to be meaningless. You were gone. I tried to always do all the right things. Tried to be good and help people. How could this have happened to me? Why were you taken from me? Bad things aren’t supposed to happen to good people.
Yesterday was the same, and there were many more of them in between, Ecclesiastes days, where the hevel was thick and isolating. Too many, really, to mention here. Yesterday, curled up on the floor, I didn’t have the energy or desire to discern the smoke, so I resigned myself to letting it crowd and smother me. My mood was apathetic and indifferent. What is the point? Why bother with anything when time and chance will have their way regardless?
How can the ache of this wound feel just as it did so many years ago? Writhing and leaving me shattered on the floor. It seems as though time has succeeded in hardening and no healing has taken place.
However, there was something else yesterday. Something undoubtably present in college too but even more so now. Or maybe I just have a greater sense for it now. Hope.
Time considered in the ways of Love allows immense hope. This is the healing I think time is involved in. I know healing has taken place since that day in college because though the hevel was just as mysterious and disorientating yesterday as it was in the garage so many years ago, I was more attuned to hope. I may not have had Emmas coming to sit down next to me every day but still, healing touches continued in the often unnoticed means of Love. My senses have been reeducated and reminded of this truth. Reading Ecclesiastes can leave you hopeless if you don’t remember the whole story it fits into, namely God coming for humanity. However, if you do remember, reading Ecclesiastes leaves you hopeful the hevel will one way or another clear, maybe after one day or many, and God will reveal Himself, His purpose and meaning.
God revealed Himself through Emma in college and through our wonderful family yesterday. Mom in her gentle motherliness and Adam with his goofy mustache and vibrant spirit. It can be a bit more obvious to see in people, but God offers Himself to us in every moment. In the fresh air and setting sun. In a beloved pet. Even in a disease. I am grateful for God’s presence and though He may not always be clear, I know not to despair because under His goodness, the march of time submits to the ways of Love and heals all wounds.